Artist Review: Lenovo Miix 510 with Active Pen

I've got my friend Mindflyer and Lenovo Singapore to thank for arranging a review unit of the Lenovo Miix 510 for me to check out.

The Lenovo Miix 510 is a 2-in-1 computer, just like the Microsoft Surface Pro 4 and Acer Switch Alpha, all of which have active styluses.

As usual, my review will be from the perspective of an artist. I'm not interested in running benchmarks because all those things aren't that important when it comes to drawing. My priority is to find out how well performs when it's being used as a digital sketchpad.


Let's take a look at the specifications first:

  • Processor: IntelĀ® Core i3-6100U (2.3 GHz), i5-6200U (2.3 - 2.8 GHz max), i7-6500U (2.5 - 3.1 GHz max)
  • OS: Windows 10
  • Screen: 12.2-inch
  • Resolution: 1920 x 1200
  • Storage: Up to 1TB SSD
  • RAM: Up to 8GB
  • Graphics: Intel HD Integrated Graphics 520
  • Ports: USB Type C, USB 3 Type A, audio Jack
  • Dimension: 30 x 20.5 x 0.99 cm (or 1.59 cm thick with keyboard)
  • Weight: 880 g or 1.25kg with keyboard
  • Active Stylus: Included
  • Battery: 39 WHr


The Miix 510 comes with a keyboard cover, stylus and charger.

Design and build quality

Build quality is excellent and the unit feels solid. It weighs 880g and goes up to 1.25kg with the included keyboard.


The build-in kickstand uses the Lenovo's hinge system, and it's able to position itself to any angle.


The hinge is tight. But if you rest your hands on the screen to draw, the screen will be pushed down to the lowest angle.


That's the recessed area to open the kickstand. The unit is cooled by fans and there are vents at both sides and top.

Overall design looks fine and very functional. SP4's design is cleaner by comparison.


The keyboard cover uses faux leather which is easier to clean. It protects the Gorilla Glass screen but the brushed aluminum back is exposed. You'll probably want to get a case for the back because any scratches will make your heart ache like getting a scratch on a new car.


The keyboard cover attaches to the tablet using strong magnets, and you can use the magnets to tilt the keyboard at an incline. When drawing with the keyboard attached, the drawing hand would brush against the keys. I usually detach the keyboard as I don't like that feeling. I prefer using a Bluetooth keyboard instead, placed by the side.


The keyboard is fine to type with but definitely not the best. I like the large arrow keys which I use often, but the small Shift key on the right could be bigger. The keyboard has backlight but it is not switched on by default (just press FN + Spacebar to switch on).


The ports included are a USB 3 Type C and A. If you want to connect to an external monitor, you'll need an adapter. I tried charging the Miix 510 with my phone's USB Type C cable and it wasn't able to. There' no mention whether the USB Type C can be used for charging, so it's advisable to use the big and heavy charging adapter provided. If USB Type C charging is possible, Lenovo probably won't have included the round charging port in the first place. It would have been so nice to have 2 USB Type C ports though, one capable of charging.

Miix 510 is heavier than SP4's 786g but lighter than ASA12's 910g. It does feel heavy compared to SP4 but it's still relatively light, but much heavier with the keyboard cover added.

Screen


The 12.2-inch screen features a 1920 by 1200 resolution which is lower compared to SP4's 2736 x 1824 resolution and ASA12's 2160 by 1440. The resolution is perfectly usable. On a 12.2 inch screen, it's still not too pixelated.

The biggest advantage is for apps not optimised for high resolution screens, the user interface, buttons and menus will be rendered at very comfortable sizes. For example, running Adobe CS6 or older apps on the SP4 will give you tiny icons, icons so small that even with a small tip stylus it can still be challenging to click.


In my review for the ASA12, I actually praised the 2160 by 1440 resolution just because it's lower than SP4's. And now I applaud the Miix 510 for actually using the 1920 by 1200 resolution. My use case could be unusual because I'm still hanging on to using old Adobe CS6 (which is still serving me very well). High pixel density screen can give you sharp images and text but I still value usability and prefer having larger icons and menus even if they are slightly pixelated --- but seriously they aren't really that pixelated on the Miix 510.

Colour reproduction is fantastic. The screen is vibrant, and there's no colour shift when viewed at angles.

Performance

My unit comes with the core i7-6500U with a dual 2.5Ghz that goes up to 3.1Ghz. There's 8GB RAM and 512GB SSD storage on board. Performance is snappy. If the price difference between the i5 and i7 isn't too big, then it might be worth upgrading. But it's important to get at least 8GB of RAM. Having 256GB storage would be good because with the 128GB storage, the actual size would be around 108GB with Windows OS installed.

There's no microSD card slot so you might want to increase the storage at the time of purchase as you won't be able to do so later on.

Battery life is 4-6 hours. Yes, I'm giving you a wide range because it really depends on what you're doing. If you want to sketch non-stop for 4 hours, sure no problem. If you want it to last all day, have that charger nearby. Battery life is not as good as SP4, but SP4's battery life isn't that good either when compared to laptops. It's a shame the Miix 510 can't be charged by the USB Type C port because having a power bank can really lengthen your working time.

Lenovo Active Pen (version 1)


This is the essential tool for drawing on the screen.


The battery powered stylus uses a AAAA battery. If battery life is anything like SP4's Surface Pen, it should last for months.


This is an active stylus so you're going to get the hover mode, and perfect palm rejection when hover mode is in effect. An active stylus on a Windows tablet is almost always better compared to a capacitive stylus, such as the stylus used by the Samsung TabPro S.


This stylus uses Wacom technology and supports pressure sensitivity. There's option to change the pressure sensitivity in step but no pressure curve for you to adjust. You can also customize the two shortcut buttons on the side of the stylus.

I wasn't able to find documentation that mentions the actual levels of pressure sensitivity supported. When I'm using it, it's definitely more sensitive than any of the capacitive styluses that I've used (that's all of Adonit's styluses) and on par or even better with the Surface Pen and the one from ASA12.

The pen holder included can be plugged into the USB Type A port.

When the tips get worn out, you can replace them. I wasn't able to find any replaceable tips included in my box though.

Drawing performance

The Lenovo Miix 510 comes pre-installed with Wintab driver. Thumbs up for Lenovo with that move.

Wintab driver is required for Photoshop to produce pressure sensitive strokes. I let out a gasp of relief when I saw that the first line I drew with Photoshop was smooth and the pressure sensitivity works perfectly. The thin and thick transition is smooth and the strokes taper gradually as I lift off the stylus. With many other Windows tablets that I've tried, I often need to install Lazy Nezumi Pro plugin to get smooth lines for Photoshop but with the Miix 510 there's no need to do so. Nice.


My happiness is short-lived because, as usual, Photoshop (I'm using CS6), still gives me problems on tablet platforms. Sometimes, I would randomly get thick strokes as if pressure sensitivity was lost. You can see in the picture above, everything was fine until I had to draw the cubes. There, I encountered the random-thick-line syndrome. I found someone asking about the same problem on the Adobe forums but the solution posted did not help me.

Problems with strokes are usually caused by Wintab, so I downloaded Wintab driver from Microsoft's website and reinstalled it.


Reinstalling Wintab fixed the problem with the random thick lines. In the end, I guess you still have to manually install Wintab to get Photoshop working fine.

There's also slight jitter for diagonal lines that are drawn slowly. When drawing at moderate speed, the usual speed I work at, I don't get the jitter. Some graphic apps actually don't have jitter so it really depends on how good the app is designed. But if you really need that level of accuracy, the jitter could be the deal breaker.

Another thing with (only) Photoshop is, after using it for a while, it would seem to lag. The strokes would come out slower. I've changed the settings for the cache, history state and RAM allocation but the lag will still come back after a while, and after a while it will go back to normal. Weird.

Compared to the Apple Pencil where you can get strokes without pressure as long as there is contact with screen, with the Lenovo stylus you do have to apply slight activation force to draw. In actual use, it feels very similar to using Apple Pencil or Wacom Intuos stylus. That's very satisfactory to me and I would give it 4 to 4.5 out of 5 stars for the implementation (5 is reserved for Wacom Intuos styluses).


I've tried the stylus with Medibang Paint Pro, Krita, Paint Tool Sai, Wacom Bamboo Paper, Sketchable, ArtRage Touch, Sketchbook and Illustrator (CS6) and the stylus performs almost flawlessly. Palm rejection works most of the time as long as you're in hover mode. The only issue I had was with Mischief because that app does not work well with Wintab drivers, hence I have to use a hack to turn Wintab on and off.


When it comes to taking notes, I use Squid and the experience is great. The stylus tip glides smoothly on the glass surface and I was almost able to match the speed with of a real ballpoint pen. This is a huge plus for those looking for a note taking tablet. It was able to capture my handwriting relatively well but not as accurate as the Lenovo Yoga Book. On a scale of 1 to 5 where 5 is being able to capture my handwriting accurately, Miix 510 would score a 4, while the Yoga Book scores a 5.


I don't really use One Note but in case you do that's the handwriting sample above.

There's minimal parallax error for a 12.2 inch screen. The cursor is always beneath the tip.

The tip is smooth on the glass screen and glides freely, but sometimes it's a bit too slippery for my liking but it's good for handwriting. It takes a while to get used to it,


Unfortunately, the design of the stylus is not perfect. Having a small tip is a good thing. However, the front of the tip holder is quite big and it blocks the line of vision to the lines drawn. This is alright for people who take notes, but for artists who want to see where their lines are coming out from, it can a problem. And you can't tilt the pen too much because that tip holder is big and will touch the screen.

Conclusion

Pre-installing the Wintab driver is a great move. Not everyone who buys this 2-in-1 computer will know that you need the Wintab driver in order to get pressure sensitivity working right. Going online to find the Wintab driver and install may be easy but it's still an additional inconvenience. Unfortunately, not all apps work perfectly. I had problems with random thick lines with Photoshop. And Mischief doesn't work with the Wintab driver.

Overall drawing experience is very satisfactory when the drawing apps work. After installing Wintab, my workflow was pretty smooth without hiccups.

The pricing for Miix 510 is very competitive. The i5 model with 8GB RAM and 256GB storage is selling at around USD $700 and that includes the keyboard cover and stylus. That's around the same price as the Acer Switch Alpha 12. Both 2-in-1s are USD $300 cheaper than the Surface Pro 4. Surface Pro 4 is a good product but Lenovo Miix 500 is equally as good, but cheaper.

Price cutting and competition in the 2-in-1 computer market is brutal, but it really benefits consumers. So either Lenovo is making little profit on the Miix 510 or Microsoft is making a huge profit off it (probably so).

So is the Lenovo Miix 510 a capable digital sketchpad. Yes, but it has some glitches with Photoshop and Mischief as mentioned earlier. Thankfully, there are workarounds so it's not a deal breaker.

Overall, my rating would be 4 out of 5 stars. The downsides are the battery life, weight when compared to other 2-in-1s and the design of the tip holder.

If you're currently looking for a digital sketchpad that runs Windows, you should check out the Miix 510, SP4 and ASA12. Stay away from the Samsung TabPro S and Huawei Matebook.

One last thing, do not confuse the Miix 510 with the 1.75kg Yoga 510 (14-inch). The Miix 510 comes with the active stylus that's optimal for drawing.

If you find this review helpful, share it with your artist friends.

Pros
+ Sturdy build quality
+ Has USB 3 Type C and Type A ports
+ Nice weight for its size but too heavy for handheld drawing
+ Built in stand that you can adjust to any position
+ Pressure sensitivity of the stylus is on par or better than Surface Pen.
+ Stylus feels good to draw on the screen
+ 1920 by 1200 resolution means user interface of all apps are at comfortable sizes
+ Screen has good viewing angles and colours
+ Good stereo speakers
+ Able to install desktop and tablet apps
+ Wintab driver is pre-installed
+ Snappy performance generally
+ The stylus included uses Wacom technology
+ The stylus pressure sensitivity and buttons can be customised
+ Keyboard cover is included
+ Keyboard is relatively good to type on
+ Keyboard has backlight

Cons
- Battery life could be better
- No display port included
- No microSD slot included
- The stylus' tip holder is big and blocks off the line of vision to lines drawn
- Goes to sleep when keyboard covers the screen, but doesn't wake automatically when screen is uncovered
- Photoshop has random thick line problem with default Wintab driver
- Photoshop lags after a while and goes back to normal
- USB Type C port cannot be used for charging
- Keyboard cover does not protect the back of the tablet
- 880g tablet weight is heavier than SP4

Availability

Check out more reviews of the Lenovo Miix 510 through the direct Amazon links below:
Amazon.com | Amazon.ca | Amazon.co.uk | Amazon.de | Amazon.fr | Amazon.it | Amazon.es | Amazon.co.jp

If you make any purchase through the links, I get a little commission at no extra cost to you.

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